Storm Chaser reviews

More reviews of Storm Chaser:

The book now has eleven 5-star and one 4-star reviews on Amazon, three 5-star reviews on Barnes & Noble, and on it has one Great rating and one OK rating. But the OK guy was just jealous. That's my story.

My Funny Valentine now has six five-star reviews on Amazon -- and needless to say, you can get signed copies of either book through me!

2011: On an Off Year


            Whew. Was 2011 an exhausting year, or what? It felt like the whole world spent the last twelve months running a marathon at internet speed. No wonder my feet hurt.

            It may turn out to be something of a watershed year for me, as I accomplished one of my life’s biggest goals. No, I didn’t get into Bill Gates’ will. No, I didn’t get the word “snow” banished from the dictionary. No, I didn’t win a lifetime supply of chocolate: I got that first novel published.

Just about everything else went wrong for me, which I suppose was karma balancing the scales. I don’t appreciate that, karma. But considering the rest of the world, it’s hard to complain.

            Let’s take a look at some of the events of 2011. Why? Well, everyone else is doing it.

            Lots of bad things happened, of course. Osama bin Laden and that guy in Libya who couldn’t figure out how to spell his name were killed. Bad things happened, too.

            I prefer not to focus on the bad things, or at least not the bad things I can’t make fun of. Iran trying to get nukes? Just not funny. An overspending Federal government heading over a cliff? Not funny. The entire world coming to a standstill so a Prince can get married in England? I could make fun of that all day.

            But then, William and Kate made a happy couple – he clearly got his looks from his mother – so it’s all good. I hear the celebration was so huge that they donated the leftover reception food to the hungry in Africa. All the hungry.

            President Obama released his birth certificate, a mere three years after the controversy over where he was born began. Some wonder whether the White House purchase of printer’s ink, special green paper and the employment of “Guido, artist from Chicago” three days previous might not be a coincidence. Still, most are now satisfied that Obama was merely ashamed, since the certificate revealed his given name to be “Newt Mitt Bachmann Obama”.

            The Libyan protests that downed a dictatorship upped gas prices by 20%. When Canada offered to fill up America’s tank, President Obama said “No thanks – I think we can make it to the next exit.”

            Rupert Murdoch shut down his News of the World publication after allegations of phone hacking by the newspaper. Most of the paper’s employees had already found other jobs, having heard Murdoch’s plans over his phone.

            The U.S. credit rating was downgraded for the first time ever, after Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling. In response to the possibility that borrowing costs will rise and the economy might be damaged by government overspending, Congress voted to study the problem by funding a Super Committee. Stocks rose for a company in Virginia that manufactures money printing presses.

            (Okay, so I can make fun of that.)

            Occupy Wall Street attempted to occupy Wall Street – thus the name – to protest … something. Many were dissatisfied that they were dissatisfied, and vowed to struggle on until everyone else was dissatisfied, too.

            Overall the stock market bounced up and down quite a bit, depressed by the economy but buoyed upward when Wall Street traders stopped using the dollar and began trading Monopoly money.

            Plans for Washington lobbyists to stop paying politicians in cash, and start trading services instead, stalled when they realized cash was the only service lobbyists offered.

            The World population reached 7 billion, prompting fears of immediate worldwide calamity by people who said the same thing when it reached 6 billion. American politicians laughed at the paltry number, while the 7 billionth baby received over 76 million birthday cards and a special coupon for half off at Toys R’ Us.

            An American probe became the first spacecraft to leave the solar system, and told its handlers it wouldn’t come back until after the 2012 election.

            Oprah and Regis left their long running TV shows, prompting some network executives to jump from high rise windows. Meanwhile, Larry King left his own long running CNN program after revelations that through the entire previous three seasons he’d been dead.

            For the first time, the number of Republicans running for their party’s Presidential nomination reached the triple digits; at one point the U.S. Congress had to shut down for the day because so many members were on the campaign trail that they couldn’t reach a quorum. This resulted in an embarrassing moment during early Iowa polling, when so many candidates were running that each received exactly one vote.

            As a result of 2012 election campaigning, which began in 2010, the 2011 off-year elections went unnoticed. Voter turnout in some precincts hit the minuses, a statistical impossibility that pollsters blamed on extreme electorate indigestion.

            Yeah, so that’s about it. That popping sound you’ve been hearing all autumn were Republican presidential candidates imploding, so now you know what the noise will be once primary season starts. I predict 2012 will be a very interesting year for politics, which is another way of saying a very bad year for the rest of us.

            But at least it’ll give me something to write about.

Believe in Yourself: Book Review Storm Chaser

Believe in Yourself: Book Review Storm Chaser: 'Storm Chaser' was written by Mark R Hunter. It is a romantic story about a Midwestern State Trooper and a photographer who chases storms,...

Storm Chaser and My Funny Valentine ... for your new e-reader!

Get a new e-reader for Christmas? Sure you did. Time to fill it, and why not start with an action-adventure-romantic comedy-mystery? That way you have a lot of the genres covered, right from the beginning. And if you’re old fashioned like me, you’re still going to need something to read in the dead of winter.

Storm Chaser is available at:

(And Amazon UK)

And of course through my own website: There you can also order a print copy, if you’re not close enough to pick one up at the Albion New Era or Just Off the Square in Albion, the Churubusco News in that town, Summer’s Stories in Kendallville, Freedom Acres in Cromwell, or The Bookmark in Fort Wayne.

Copies will be available at a book signing Monday, January 30th, from 3:30 – 6 p.m. at the Noble County Public Library main branch in Albion.

And don’t forget about Mark Hunter’s contribution to the humor compilation My Funny Valentine, the perfect companion book to bring a few smiles in the dead of winter:

More on Storm Chaser, by Mark R. Hunter:

The black funnel of an approaching tornado makes all other troubles seem small. But when Indiana State Trooper Chance Hamlin “rescues” Allie Craine from a twister, his troubles are just beginning—Allie, a disaster photographer, rescues him when he drives into the storm’s path.

Chance doesn’t like being rescued, he doesn’t like photographers, and he definitely doesn’t like being stuck with Allie when she wants to stay in calm, peaceful Indiana. Too bad his family, friends, and even the other members of Chance’s volunteer fire department think she’s great. Suspicious of Allie’s motives, he decides to drive her away out of sheer boredom—but that’s not so easy when someone begins causing fires and other catastrophes around the area. That someone might be Allie, who has plans of her own...

Windchaser's Journey: All's Fair in Love, War...and Publishing!

Windchaser's Journey: All's Fair in Love, War...and Publishing!: There's been a lot of bitching and moaning online about authors only giving reviews to their friends. Unprofessional? You might be surprised...

Keeping Christmas Fake

Merry Christmas, everyone!

This article originally appeared in the insert of this week’s Albion New Era newspaper:

When I was a kid, we had a fake Christmas tree that no one bothered even pretending might be real.

            It was an aluminum pole with holes in it, like a great silver stick. We’d take the arrow-straight branches out of their paper tubes, fluff out the bright, unnaturally green “needles” of shredded aluminum, and stick them in the holes. Then we’d hang ornaments: Plain balls and bells of difference sizes. Multi-colored lights went on, as did, naturally, tinsel.

            I had no idea we were part of a fad that started in 1958, when the Aluminum Specialty Company launched this idea of selling “Permanent Trees” – a fad that faded out at about the same time I discovered the truth about Santa. Ours was a totally artificial bright green; my grandmother’s was white. Not white as in covered with artificial snow – all white.

            We also had a cardboard fireplace, unfolded from its box in all its painted brick glory. Santa could have flattened the thing with one strand of white beard.

            We knew it wasn’t real: Santa was magic. No further explanation was necessary.

            After that we’d set up the color wheel. It rotated slowly, passing in front of a bright floodlight, bathing the living room in red, yellow, green, and blue.

            Imagine being entertained by that, at a time when ad companies throw down million dollar digital effects to sell us car insurance.

            It was the fakest Christmas ever.

            It was the most real Christmas ever.

In 1965 A Charlie Brown Christmas came along to poke fun at the fake looking tree trend, effectively killing it. These days you can get trees that look so real you can’t leave them outside, for fear a beaver will get plastic poisoning trying to eat one. They have everything but the pine smell – but then, there are candles for that.

            You can get designer ornaments of every design (which explains the name, doesn’t it?), lights that blink out the tune of your favorite pop Christmas carol and also blind overhead airline pilots, and a blow-up Santa to stalk across your roof. Designer Christmas decorations. In every store, aisles of stuff that uses the term “décor”.

But does anyone take the time to look?

            At our holiday gatherings kids got underfoot in the same room where the adults traded stories of their good old days. Nobody retreated into the spare bedroom to check their e-mails, and nobody got caught texting under the table. Even when the football game came on, people kept talking to each other. Our lack of modern communications led to … communication.

            The whole thing reminds me of the difference between my generation’s simple half hour How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the loud, movie length, effects laden version of a few years ago.

I don’t mean to go all Thoreau on you, with cries of “simplify!” at a time when life becomes more and more complicated. You retreat from life at the cost of opportunity and responsibility … besides, I like my laptop. Still, it seems to me we’re putting too much emphasis on making Christmas look fancy, and not enough on it being real. Can’t we find a little time, especially in this season, to step back and slow down? After all, the origins of Christmas are the simplest story of all: A couple, a baby, and a promise.

            Why are you competing with the guy next door, who had to haul in a generator to run so many lights they melt all the snow for two blocks around? Do you enjoy decorating and getting everything ready, or is it just a big, overwhelming chore? Are your plans over the top and burning a hole in your pocket?  Does December 26th involve self-medicating?

            Well then, just do what makes you happy. You might be surprised how much your kids appreciate not having Martha Stewart parents. Stop making your Christmas realistic, and start making it real.

            Maybe you could even haul out a color wheel.

My Funny Valentine -- signed copies available soon

I have a book signing coming up January 30th at the Noble County Public Library main branch (you heard it here almost first!) so I have a decision to make: How many copies of “my” new book should I have on hand?

Truth in advertising: It’s not just mine – it’s a compilation of Valentine’s related pieces by columnists, bloggers, and cartoonists from all over:

            My Valentine’s Day column “Valentine Fail, or: Where to Sleep When You Don’t Own a Doghouse”, originally appeared in The Albion New Era in February, and is reprinted in My Funny Valentine along with items from 40 humorists. This book should make a great Valentine’s gift: It doesn’t go bad in a week like flowers, has no calories like candy, and at $9.95 (plus tax) is way less expensive than jewelry – and will probably be more appreciated than lingerie. Plus, a little humor goes a long way in the dark, cold months of winter.

            My question to you, the fan, is: How many of you might be interested in an autographed copy from me? Keep in mind, it would only be my autograph – not that of any other contributor! Although the book is available at a lower price as an e-book, it was meant as more of a gift item. You can buy it directly or learn more about it here:

            I’ll definitely have some available at my next book signing, and I’m even offering a deal: Anyone who buys a copy can also pick up Storm Chaser at a reduced price, $12.95. This is assuming you don’t already have Storm Chaser – or that you want to give that out as a gift, too. Let me know if you’re interested in a copy of the new work, and here’s a bit more about My Funny Valentine:

            Love is to laugh with, not at, in this anthology of Vday humor from forty of the top humor writers around. An inexpensive, pocket-sized book focused on Valentine giving

and lightening-up, My Funny Valentine is a condensed packet of laughs and smiles.

            This is the first offering from My Funny Books, a new imprint dedicated to showcasing the country’s top humor writers. The writers here are contest winners, syndicated columnists, book authors, working comediennes, writers and producers for television shows, joke-mongers for famous comics, and beloved cartoonists. Some quotes:

I don’t need a special day to be awkward, uncomfortable and falsely selfless. That’s what dating was for. – Blythe Jewell

            We lovingly refer to it as Valentine’s Day because "Sex for Chocolate Day" was vetoed by the greeting card industry. – Leigh Anne Jasheway

Valentine’s Day is about those five little words: Charge it to my Visa. – Jim Shea

Yeah, so, I missed Valentine’s Day this year. On a totally unrelated note I’ve discovered it’s possible, and even advisable, to sleep in today’s smaller, more fuel efficient cars. – Mark R Hunter

Questioning Christmas Songs


            I was going to do something serious for my Christmas column this year. It’s a serious time; besides, as I write this there’s a special on Discovery about various disasters that could destroy the world.

            Way to get into the spirit, Discovery!

            But serious times are when we need to lighten up the most. That’s why all those great movie musicals were popular during the Great Depression; it might also explain the popularity of the TV show Glee, one of the most profoundly unserious shows since Gilligan’s Island even when it’s dealing with real issues. And that’s a great segue, because Glee does more song and dance numbers than a Congressional hearing, and as it happens I want to talk about Christmas songs.

            If you can’t make fun of Christmas songs, what can you make fun of? Besides, I’m still getting over this sinus infection, and searching for an easy target, so let’s take a look at some popular ones:

            Santa Claus is Coming to Town”: I’ve mentioned this song before – I call it “Santa Stalker”. He sees you when you’re sleeping … he knows when you’re awake … he knows when you’ve been bad or good … and he’s coming to town. No doubt he’ll be bringing his equally scary pals, the Boogeyman and the IRS Agent.

            I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”: Well. At least now we know why he’s coming to town. This is on that unique list of Christmas songs that, when you really pay attention, are the equivalent of an AMC Original Series: suitable for adults only.

            Jingle Bell Rock”: I included this out of historical interest, because it’s one of the first rock and roll Christmas songs. It seems quaint now, but at the time it was probably scandalous to the more traditional fans. If someone’s idea of a modern Christmas song was “The Hallelujah Chorus”, that guitar opening must have been a shock.

            Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”: See above about adult Christmas songs; this one is basically the story of a guy who’s using bad weather as an excuse to make some time with his stranded companion. Also, it doesn’t actually mention Christmas in any way, which puts it into another category: songs about Christmas that – aren’t.

            But at least it’s better than “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, in which the guy bypasses trying to talk his girl into the sack and spikes her drink, instead. Listen to those lyrics and you’ll get never let someone else mix your drink again.

            This Christmas”: Last Christmas she gave him her heart, and the very next day he gave it away. Wait. He gave her heart away? So … he made her fall in love with someone else? Well, you can understand the singer being a little mixed up, considering she’s spending her Christmas as a heartbroken mess.

            The Twelve Days of Christmas”: This is one of those songs that are so old people don’t really understand what they mean anymore. (See: figgy puddings.) Your true love gave you … maids milking? French hens? Where do you even get lords leaping? Do they have to have union cards?

            But of course, the big problem with this one is that it’s twelve days long.

            Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”: Let me break this song down for you: It’s about a bullied kid with a serious birth defect whose haters decide to like him after it turns out he has a superpower that saves the day. Okay. Why did Stan Lee never turn this into a Marvel comic? Or was Spider-Man enough?

            Blue Christmas”: Only Elvis Presley really pulled off this iconic story of a depressed man who’s miserable all through the holidays. Probably the most down Christmas song ever, with the possible exception of “Christmas Shoes”, a song I can’t listen to all the way through to this day.

            Christmas Dragnet”: Funniest Christmas song ever – at least, if you’re familiar with Jack Webb’s old “Dragnet” TV series. I steal the funniest line of that song for my own purposes whenever I can get away with it … and no, I’m not going to tell you what it is. If you don’t listen to the song, you’ll still believe I thought it up myself.

            Little St. Nick.” It’s actually not a bad song, but the very idea of The Beach Boys singing about a winter holiday … you have to picture them belting it out on a beach, wearing shorts with red and green Hawaiian shirts, surrounded by bikini ladies in Santa hats. Which … now that I think on it, that’s not a bad way to spend Christmas.

            Jingle Bells”: A nice, traditional Christmas song … except when done by the Singing Dogs. Whose bright idea was that, and what’s next? Cats screeching out “Feliz Navidad”?

            Snoopy’s Christmas”: A flying dog engaged in a bloody fight to the death with a vicious World War 1 German ace. Merry Christmas, my friend!

            The Chipmunk Song”: Again, whose bright idea was that? ‘Cause the guy should’ve gotten a medal for spawning an empire that’s cranking out cash to this day. I’m thinking about doing a version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – with helium.

            White Christmas” and “Silent Night”: They tie for being close to the perfect Christmas songs. If you can listen to them without getting teared up and – at least inwardly – singing along, you have no heart. Maybe you gave it away Last Christmas.

            Santa Baby”: Top on the list of inappropriate Christmas songs. To this day, Santa can’t hear any version without having to take a cold shower.

            And finally, the single most ridiculous Christmas song ever can only be:

            Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”.

            Nothing says Christmas like a hit and run sleigh driver smearing an elderly lady across the sidewalk. Maybe Snoopy should be hired to bring Santa down?

            Makes me wish I hadn’t forgot my medication.
Originally posted at the Writers of Mass Distraction site, I'm reprinting this here with a few photos from my signings. The original post:

Near the end of my second book signing, my host produced a bottle of Tylenol from a drawer, which instantly made me think: “Ah – that’s what I forgot to bring!”

I’ve done three signings now, none of them at a library or bookstore (the library experience comes at the end of January). They’re living proof that you can have a book signing anywhere:
The first was at an outdoor town-wide event called First Friday, where the Courthouse square was turned into a giant monopoly board and I signed books while life sized game pieces moved around in front of me. Fifteen copies sold.

The second was at a bed and breakfast a block from the courthouse, during the town’s annual Christmas celebration. There was room for me in the Inn, but it was also one of the places on the Christmas House Walk, which meant a constant parade of people touring the place who were puzzled to discover me and another writer at the dining room table. Eleven copies sold.

For the third I ventured to a neighboring town, where a working farm/animal rescue facility/general store played host. It was the first place where the majority of local people didn’t know me, and it was also in a brand-new business on a county road, a mile from town limits … in the hay loft of a barn-turned gift shop. Two copies sold. A failure? No – a good experience, with great people who showed me every courtesy.

In all three cases no one died, nothing caught fire, and I made more than I spent … not to mention I got my name out there. Every writer has a horror story about book signings. If you’re newly published, as I am, or if you haven’t published yet (hang in there!) your horror story will come.

But if something bad is to happen, don’t let it be something you caused.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at one thing you can control: What you bring with you. If you’re anything like me, when you finally get that printed book in your hand you’ll still be in some disbelief, and probably didn’t spend much time before then seriously considering promotion. Social networking aside, getting out there in person is still one of the best ways to push your book, so let’s be a Boy (or Girl) Scout and make sure you have everything you might need.

I invested in two clear plastic totes: One to hold the big stuff, and a smaller one that fit inside it and contained such crass items as change. You could argue that they should be opaque, to avoid turning off readers and attracting muggers. In fact, you could argue for many additions to this list, and that’s one reason I made it: To provoke discussion over what others bring to their signings.

Let’s take a look at my list:

Books. Yeah, obvious, right? But authors who go to bookstores sometimes assume the stores will have plenty of copies – after all, they’re hosting you, It ain’t necessarily so; have copies of your own, and if you think you don’t need them leave them in your car trunk. Better too many than too few.

I was convinced I wouldn’t sell many copies at my second signing – after all, it was only a block from the first, and I’d already picked the low fruit: Relatives, coworkers and friends. When I counted my 14 copies, I wasn’t at all concerned. An hour into the book signing, when I’d already passed out half of them, I started to sweat.

A table and chairs. Your host will probably provide those: Make sure. Also, don’t sit behind the table the whole time – be prepared to stand and greet.

Signs. My publisher sent me a small paperboard poster with the front cover of Storm Chaser, which I put on a little easel on the table. I also had two signs printed on regular paper: One basically says “get your copy here”, along with a price, while the other has a brief synopsis of the plot so I don’t have to explain it to every passerby.

Pens. Not just one – therein lays disaster. Make it a sharp point felt type pen, which works much better for signing a book. Don’t be cheap: Writers will be expected to have good pens. The pipe and black turtleneck are optional.

Display stand. Maybe one for your little poster and one for a copy of the book. Be visible.

Notebook. Why? You’re a writer, man – have a notebook! You might need to jot down any number of things, from a new contact in the business, to a possibility for a new signing, to a story idea. At my first signing a woman approached me who later displayed Storm Chaser in her antique shop.

Business cards/bookmarks. Have as much of your contact information on them as possible: At least your name and your website, and the name of your book if the material is book specific. I went with business cards.

Giveaway stuff. Since my second and third signings were at Christmas time, I wrote a Christmas themed short story featuring some of the characters from Storm Chaser, printed it up, and handed it out. The story is set before the book – don’t spoil someone who might be interested, but hasn’t yet read the main product. More typical giveaway stuff includes cookies, mints, or little trinkets like pens that will, of course, have your information on them.

On a related note, if you have any kind of snacks provide napkins, and maybe a few wet wipes. You don’t want the merchandise damaged.

A bottle of water. No, don’t spike it; but be prepared to answer questions about your book and the writing process, not to mention you’ll probably have a case of dry-mouth.

A calculator/change. My book was priced at $14.95; people kept handing me twenties. Have ones, fives and tens on hand, as well as some coins. The calculator? If you’re like me, you write because you hate to count.

Pain reliever. I don’t do well with noise or crowds … if all goes well and I have a really successful night, I’ll need ibuprofen. If all doesn’t go well, I’ll probably need it more.

Scotch tape. It’s the book signer’s duct tape: You never know what you might need to display or hold up.

A camera. Put up photos of your signings at your website, on social networks, in the newspaper, on the door of your car … okay, let’s not go overboard.

Let me stress: During a book signing never look bored, and never get caught reading a paperback or updating your Facebook – you’re there to work. If there are no customers, check out other products and strike up conversations with employees.

Decent clothes. Just in case you don’t think of it. Do you write in old sweats, or a bathrobe? Don’t let anyone know that. Don’t dress formally – you want to bring people in, not make them think you’re their banker – but dress nicely. Remember, all black is a cliché!

Oh, who am I kidding? I wore all black.